Tuesday 18 June 2019

Union officials slam 'weak' response of leaders

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

OFFICIALS from the main public sector unions have accused their leadership of a "weak" response to the pension levy.

A group from Impact, SIPTU, Unite and the teacher unions called on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to call a one-day national strike.

It said it wants to begin a "real campaign" against the public sector "pay cut".

The group urged all unions to ballot members immediately as they did not believe the Government would pay "much attention" to the mass rally on Saturday week, announced by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

At a meeting in Dublin yesterday, the officials said "talking and complaining and lobbying is not enough when the very future of our movement is at stake". They warned that if action was not organised by union leaders, it will have to come from the grassroots.

They said any new talks with the Government would have to be in the context of the withdrawal of the public service levy, and a renewed commitment to give the pay rises due under the national pay agreement.

The general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, has said talks are its preferred option.

He has not indicated if there will be any preconditions before talks could resume, although the umbrella body will only negotiate on the basis of a pact that would see all sections of society contribute to economic recovery.

The union splinter group, which includes Kieran Allen, president of SIPTU's education branch, former president of the TUI Paddy Healy, and the chair of Unite's DIT branch Ronan Leyden, congratulated the Civil and Public Services Union for its response to the Government's action. The CPSU is the only union to announce it will ballot for a one-day work stoppage, on February 26, after talks on €2bn cutbacks collapsed last week.

Negotiations broke down in the early hours last Tuesday morning after unions refused to sign up to the pension levy, which will hit all public servants with an increase in pension contributions of between three and 9.6pc.

"We are extremely disappointed at the weakness of the response of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to the unilateral imposition of the levy and the abrogation of the national pay agreement in the public service," said Paddy Healy.

Meanwhile, the biggest public sector union, Impact, has placed advertisements in today's national media in protest at the pension levy. Under the headline, 'the levy's too heavy', it gives eight reasons to change the pension contribution hike and how it will hurt modest family budgets. Readers are encouraged to join a nationwide lobby of TDs.

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